Group: Skype Replacement

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Real-time voice and video chat is an item on the FSF's High Priority Projects list.

Be sure to check our general list for remote communication tools:

Protocol, not client

We need to make the discussion about protocols, not clients, (think how people say “send me an email” rather than “send me a Hotmail”).

The primary functionality we aim to replace is real-time:

  • voice calls (to computers)
  • video calls
  • text chat
  • voice calls to plain old telephones (via a SIP gateway or similar)

Anywhere over the Internet (or beyond), with as many people per conversation, logging, etc. whatever other features (clarify this section as necessary).

The free protocols currently available to do this are.

Voice Video Text Notes
SIP Yes Yes? Yes Sessions?
XMPP/Jingle Yes Yes Yes Full presence, group chat, widely deployed.
Mumble Yes No Yes Has positional audio support for integration with some video games as well as an overlay.
WebRTC Yes Yes No Not a protocol, but JavaScript APIs for media and raw data between web browsers.
Tox Yes Yes Yes

Central Registry?

Creating and maintaining a central directory service with presence indication. Perhaps the freenode folks would not object if the tools integrated automatically with their network to set up users and share set-up signalling. Once set up, the call data can go direct. Freenode supports client SSL certificates.


Apart from technical problems with free Skype replacements, there is a “network effect” problem preventing free protocols (and clients) from becoming popular. This might be solved by explaining the problems of Skype to the people and providing the stories about injustice concerning this software.

Free clients

Lists exist already:

Do we need more information? If so it can go here.

SIP? XMPP? Mumble? Tox WebRTC Active Development? Operating System Support License Notes
Linphone Yes No No No No Yes GNU/Linux, Windows, OSX, iOS, Android GPLv2+ ZRTP Encryption
GNU Jami Yes No No No No Yes GNU/Linux, Windows, OSX, iOS, Android, AndroidTV GPLv3 Peer-to-peer, end-to-end encrypted, with IAX2 support
Jitsi Yes Yes No No No Yes GNU/Linux, Windows, OSX LGPL ZRTP Encrypted Media, OTR, Conference
Gajim No Yes No No No Yes GNU/Linux, Windows, OSX LGPL OTR
Ekiga Yes No No No No No GNU/Linux, Windows XP, H323 GPLv2+
Empathy Yes Yes No No No Yes GNU/Linux GPL GNOME default
Psi No No GNU/Linux, Windows, OSX
Mumble No No Yes No No Yes GNU/Linux, OSX, Windows, iOS, Android¹ BSD Server and client software
QRadioLink No No Yes No No Yes GNU/Linux (audio only, video planned) GPL
Pidgin No? Yes No? No No Yes GNU/Linux, Windows (no calls) GPL
Twinkle Yes No? No No No GNU/Linux GPL
Asterisk Yes Yes No No No Yes GNU/Linux GPL Server software, VoIP PBX, connect SIP clients and hardware phones
Jitsi Meet No No No No Yes Yes Browser-based GPL Web-server software
Talky No No No No Yes Yes Browser-based Web-server software
Openmeetings No No No No Yes Yes Browser-based, Flash, WebRTC Apache 2.0 Web-server software
Big Blue Button No No No No Yes Yes Browser-based, Flash, WebRTC GPL Web-server software
Tox No No No Yes No Yes GNU/Linux, BSD, Windows, OSX, Android GPLv3 Peer-to-peer, encrypted

¹: Android has free third-party clients like Plumble.

Personal experiences


  • I have used Ekiga in the past and had good luck with it, but only with other Ekiga users on GNU/Linux -- Mattl 15:47, 14 May 2012 (EDT)
  • Ekiga used to work fine for me on the local network, but failed to connect to another user behind NAT firewall. It does not support UPnP mechanism provided by many modern routers and used by almost every torrent-client and by Skype as well. -- v_2e 05:49, 24 May 2012 (EDT)


  • Used Linphone for video telephony with my own Asterisk server and the service. Lightweight application, audio and video quite good. Conrad 22:11


  • Successfully used to three-way audio-video chat with a pair of Mac users. H.264 only, but VP8 support soon! -- Mattl 15:47, 14 May 2012 (EDT)
  • VP8 support has landed. --Johns 11:20, 30 May 2013 (EDT)
  • Use Jitsi for personal and collaboration purposes.

The good: impressive feature set:

  • XMPP, IRC, ICQ, Yahoo, Facebook, SIP
  • encrypted audio, video and screen sharing (remote control)
  • OTR chat encryption
  • NAT traversal - ICE and Jingle Nodes

The bad: severe stability issues:

  • connect problems - sometimes no audio, sometimes no video
  • audio and video drop outs.

The ugly: user interface:

  • incoming text message catches focus
  • but doesn't stay on the screen

Conrad 22:11 15 Dec 2014 (CET)


Empathy is the GNOME default IM and SIP client.

The good:

  • Empathy is further improved in Fedora 18/GNOME 3.6. I am able to make voice calls on an XMPP network from Empathy to Empathy and from Empathy to the Google Talk desktop client. -- agajan 23:34, 14 May 2013 (EDT)

The bad:

  • Empathy doesn't do/support any kind of E2E encryption. Mimi89999 (27/09/2016)
  • Google browser plugin interop requires a non-free codec (H.264). Video quality is poor without this codec when calling from Empathy to Empathy.
    Even with the new Xiph codec?
    Is that issue still actual? Mimi89999 (27/09/2016)
  • Worked fine on the local network – failed when NAT involved Conrad 22:31 15 Dec 2014 (CET)
    Is that still an issue in the latest version? Mimi89999 (27/09/2016)
  • I started to install Empathy on Debian Squeeze, using Synaptic. However, marking Empathy for installation resulted in Synaptic telling me that over 120 other packages were required, starting with brasero, brasero-common, cdrdao, cheese-common ... This is lunacy. Either there is a gross mistake in Empathy's packaging, or it really requires most of Gnome, which rules it out for me (I use Xfce).
    The Debian stable version is now Jessie. Is that issue still actual? Mimi89999 (27/09/2016)


I've been using Tox for a while on GNU/Linux and moved a few people to it. I'm now using it as one of my only forms of instant messaging instead of XMPP. Jookia 08:42, 23 November 2014 (EST)

The good:

The bad (but planned):

  • Echo cancellation isn't implemented.
  • Multidevice support for one ID isn't possible yet.
  • Only an experimental Android client.
  • Core not audited.

The ugly:

  • iOS support might need reimplementation due to GPL not allowing restrictions. However, it should probably be possible through jailbreaking.
  • No discussion of telephone network usage.

User: beccon:beccon 30 December 2014 (CET): I evaluated utox on different GNU/Linux machines:


  • Works out of the box. It takes a while to get someone on the roster - but once confirmed then text, file transfer, video and audio work
  • Easy to handle interface

Not so good:

  • High bandwidth consumption when idling. (some Megabyte per hour - making it not so suitable for mobile use) Obviously systemic - the client has to do the server's workload too.

User: usrname:usrname 17 May 2016: I have used Tox with the qTox client on a Libreboot X200 running Trisquel 7:

The Good:

  • Pretty easy install and straight forward to use.
  • Audio is very good quality without latency.
  • Text, file transfer, screen capture and screen sharing works great.
  • 832 emoticons :P
  • That it's peer-to-peer!

The bad:

  • Video was lagging, for SOME reason - not necessarily because of Tox.

Overall: this can definitely be the first free skype replacement, but it still needs a security audit I think.

User:IShareFreedom 28 de diciembre 2021: He evaluado Tox en GNU y he podido hablar con otros mayormente con el cliente qTox:

Lo bueno:

  • Fácil de poner en marcha.
  • Conexión P2P robusta, funciona sin dificultades permitiendo la comunicación sin fallos aparentes.
  • Transmisión de archivos sin límite aparente.
  • Permite conexión mediante SOCKS5 (Proxy para Tor)

Lo malo:

  • La deficiencia está en que las características como participar de grupos o video llamadas funciona idealmente sobre clientes de Escritorio/Laptops. Por esta razón recomiendo el cliente qTox y si estás en teléfono recomiendo el cliente aTox.

Related links

  • WikiSuite offers Rich Realtime Unified Communications (XMPP + WebRTC + SIP), with PBX Phone System with Voicemail to Email, Realtime Collaborative of Text, Drawing and Scrum Board (Beta), Presence / Chat (XMPP), Co-Browsing (Beta), Video Conference and Recording, Remote Control of Keyboard and Mouse (Alpha), Screen Sharing, Slideshow. Installation guide:

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